- From: "DKleinecke" <kleinecke@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007 09:26:53 -0500
Muslim literature in English often uses phrases like "Science of
Hadith" or "Hadith Science" for the technical study of hadiths. The
phrase is meant to be a translation of the Arabic "Ulum Hadith" or
"Ulum al-Hadith". (I do not understand the conditions governing when
the definite article is used.) My question concerns the accuracy of
translating "Ulum" by "Science".
This question was called to my attention when I observed that the
Wikipedia article on "Hadith" referenced the article on "Scientific
Method", but the article on "Scientific Method" did not mention
"Hadith Science" or its even more common cousin "Qur'an Science". And
indeed, in the light of the contents of the article on "Scientific
Method", it is hard to see where "Hadith Science" would fit in.
I do not believe that practitioners of the scientific method as that
method is used in western non-Muslim communities would recognize
Muslim Hadith or Qur'an Science as science in the same sense as they
use the word. I do not believe that Muslim scholars would be
particularly surprised or bothered by this fact. I could be wrong, but
I will continue nevertheless.
If Hadith Science is truly a science, then it is observer-neutral.
That is, if I, who have no credentials at all in hadith study, were to
examine a hadith and pronounce it authentic because each of the links
in its isnad was a link I found somewhere in al-Bukhari that would be
a fully qualified verdict of authenticity. (I did that recently and
was scolded for not being a hadith scholar.)
This means that there is no real use for hadith scholars in the
traditional Islamic sense. All that is needed is a catalog of
acceptable hadith links. Then any one, presented with a hadith, can
verify or deny its authenticity just as well as anybody else.
I have never seen a catalog of acceptable hadith links, but one
probably exists. Certainly an immense amount of work has gone into
studying these links. All we need to do is to put the catalog together
and publish it for everybody to use.
Are Muslims comfortable with this idea?
If not, I suggest a different and better translation of Ulum is needed.
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